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Consumers exposed to harmful goods on KNRA, inspectors feud

The authority has not paid contracted inspecting companies for the past three months.

In Summary

•Workers at the three companies are on a go slow with the authority charging imports and exporters for services not given.

•This leaves thousands of consumers in Kenya exposed to radioactive cars, equipment and foodstuff imported into the country.

Second hand cars and containers await clearance at the Port of Mombasa/
Second hand cars and containers await clearance at the Port of Mombasa/
Image: FILE

A stand-off between Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority and inspection companies at Mombasa port now leaves consumers in Kenya exposed to high level of radiation on imports.

This, even as questions arise on a move by the authority to override existing Standard Operating Procedures on scanning of used motor vehicles and one between Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade), service providers (inspecting companies) and the defunct Radiation Protection Board.

It has also failed to pay three companies contracted to do the checks, leading to a protest by their employees who are demanding their salaries, hence the go slow.

For the past three months, the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) has been asking the public (imports and exports) of used cars, foods and related material to pay for certification directly to an account operated by the authority.

This is against the schedule of fees established by the Kenya Radiation Protection Act, which recognises the inspecting companies as the collectors of payments for radioactivity checks, who later remit the specific required amounts for certificates to the Radiation Protection Board, now under KNRA.

There is no new scheduled passed allowing KNRA to directly collect payments from clients.

The payments were initially being made through an account at KenTrade.

A source withing KenTrade told the Star the authority requested its account moved.

A section of importers have also expressed concerns for lack of proof of payment under the new arrangement, raising questions of accountability on the millions being made in the process.

On normal occasions, about 900 to 1,000 used cars are inspected per day at the Port of entry with about 2,000 food samples checked for radioactivity.

Certification raises up to Sh30 million per month, sources familiar with the process told the Star.

With the go slow, some vehicles are issued with certificates even without undergoing the checks, an employee at one of the inspecting companies who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, told the Star.

This is despite clients paying for the service.

There are some samples taken from Nairobi where clients have paid but they were never tested,” he said.

Yesterday, the Car Importers Association of Kenya (CIAK) which confirmed an existing gap on the inspection processes said it would ask its members to stop paying the fees for lack of services.

“Why would we pay for an inspection that is not given. We will stop paying,” chairman Peter Otieno said.

The law requires scanning of used imported units for radiation contamination and an analysis of imported or exported foods and related raw material for radio contamination, a service that has been outsourced.

Exposure to high levels of radiation can cause acute health effects such as skin burns and acute radiation syndrome (radiation sickness).

It can also result in long-term health effects such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

When a car has excess radioactivity, the importer is asked to ship the unit back. Where it is not high, the radiation body advice on the right chemical to clean the vehicle.

Efforts to get a comment from KNRA proved futile as our calls and emails went answered.

The authority's director general Joseph Maina neither confirmed nor denied the statement, asking for a written inquiry.

He had not responded the Star's set of questions by the time of going to press.

In January 2013, a container with four motor vehicles contaminated with radioactive materials was intercepted, and was recommended for reshipping to Japan.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), through its then appointed inspection agency—Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Centre (Jevic) had given the consignment a clean bill of health, only to be rejected by the Kenya Radiation and Protection Board (KRPB) upon offloading at Mombasa.